"A Delightful NeoCon in Every Way" - 06/22/22 Edition
Stephen Says Column

​​Dear Stephen,
I had the best Neocon this year. No matter where you were, from the Merchandise Mart to the showrooms along Fulton Street, the joint was jumping. Our industry is back!

Let’s face it, when you walk into The Mart lobby and see people on the “Grand Stairs” and in the restaurant lounge above, you immediately feel the energy. You just feel like you are in our industry’s version of the Superbowl. I am not an old timer, just someone who has been in sales in Texas for a furniture manufacturer, but each year I have been lucky enough to get to go. Our showroom was in the Mart forever, but recently we moved. Yet I went back to the Mart just so I could really feel like I had attended Neocon. It is not Neocon without going to the Mart.

I had not seen our VP of Sales in over a year - I think he was hesitant to travel - even though Texas, like Florida and some other states did not want to shut down our economy and I would say we have thrived because of that. Dealers and end-users and most design firms in Texas have been conducting, more or less, business as usual. So, my point is I never thought I would be so glad to see my boss! I was afraid “out of sight; out of mind” might affect our relationship but he was great, we had a chance to hang-out in the showroom and talk between customer visits, and it’s all is good between us.

And another good thing happened because of Neocon. After hearing negative things about Chicago for the last two years, like crime, closed schools and teacher strikes it was wonderful to be back in Chicago and look around and honestly say “what a beautiful, hard-working city, with kind people and impressive architecture”.

The show is over and I am back home now but rather than ask you a question for your column, like most people do, I wanted to tell you how great Neocon was, how special it was to see my boss and colleagues from my company, and how satisfying to once again see my friends in the industry walking the halls and riding the elevators. NeoCon was just perfect.

Neocon Enthusiast

Dear Mr. Enthusiasm,

​It seems like everyone, even the biggest grumps, had a great Neocon this year. In the Mart or out, no matter where you were in Chicago people were glad to see one another. From a career point of view there is nothing like face time with the boss and people from HQ. There’s no question you stay fresh in the boss’s mind when you’ve been together for 3 days and it is a great chance to share your career goals that may have been on hold for the past two years. It’s also a distinct advantage to get to know the support people from HQ that you depend on to help your customers and make your job easier.

This trade show is important for your customers to see new products and special for your relationship with them, to meet in a different and more exciting environment. Having dinner at Smith & Wollensky with your biggest end-user or design firm, while viewing the Chicago River, is mighty special (and mighty expensive!), very memorable and probably a good business investment. If you’re at a dealership, socializing at Neocon with your manufacturer’s rep and getting to really know each other may help you get that extra 5% you need on the next big deal.

People told me that for those few days last week the City of Chicago opened up and everyone was free to conduct business like it was 2019. Attendees did not just come for the products and programs, they came to be with one another. To eat and drink with clients and friends and colleagues.

Everyone left with good memories - and I hope no Covid. Whether their showroom was in the Merchandise Mart or on Fulton Street or somewhere in between, they left with the optimism of Ted Lasso, positive thoughts on this next year of business, and everyone told me they cannot wait until Neocon 2023.